SMEs main beneficiaries of US-China trade war

Trade tensions have made Malaysia an attractive alternative for investment, especially in manufacturing

by S BIRRUNTHA/ pic by ARIF KARTONO

SMALL and medium enterprises (SMEs) have remained the main beneficiaries of the trade dispute between China and the US.

HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd commercial banking country head Andrew Sill said while nobody would benefit from a long-term trade war, Malaysia, in the interim period, is at an advantageous position.

“We have seen an increase in manufacturing investments that come into Malaysia. Some manufacturers look at Malaysia as an alternative base given the tensions between China and the US.

“If you think about Asean, you’ve got about 200 large companies in the world operating and within that, you have certain industries that are very much in the global supply chains — automotive, manufacturing.

“So, in the interim period, Malaysian SMEs had the opportunity to benefit from some of the uncertainties the trade war created,” he told reporters during HSBC’s media briefing on the growth of SMEs in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

As for the trade truce signed between Washington and Beijing on SMEs, Sill said the trade tensions have made Malaysia an attractive alternative for investment.

“In the broadest sense, the incentives, government schemes and the facilitating of businesses stand up favourably,” he said.

The US and China signed a trade deal on Wednesday to bring economic relief to markets and global economy, after nearly two years of tensions.

As part of the agreement, the US agreed to halve some of the new tariffs it had imposed on Chinese products.

Meanwhile, HSBC also launched an enhanced business banking proposition to better support SMEs grow their business.

The enhanced proposition provides SMEs with dedicated relationship managers and banking specialists who are committed to their long-term growth.

It is expected to be a one-stop shop offering access to their digital banking solutions, easy payments and collections, access to funding and quick resolution of issues.

HSBC business banking country head Anita Tang said the bank has strengthened its digital banking capabilities with new tools for business to operate and transact digitally.

“Despite very strong domestic footing of SMEs, we found that they really lack the ability to scale up beyond the borders. With this in mind, we recognise that SMEs face a lot of challenges from some of the low-cost countries across the region, as well as very rapidly changing technologies,” she said.

Tang said HSBC is committed in assisting SMEs in their journey.

Citing an example, she said last year, the bank executed a letter-ofcredit deal with an SME customer that has now grown into a mid-tier client.

“This transaction is a reflection on how the technology is gaining traction in markets across the region and HSBC,” she said.

According to HSBC’s 2019 Navigator survey findings “Now, Next and How for Business”, 81% of companies in Malaysia have a positive outlook in 2020 and expect their sales to grow.

The survey also highlighted that the growth of companies in the near term is likely to be driven by improving business productivity, investing in technology and entering new markets such as Asean.